To make a Catholic education system possible, the Australian bishops looked to Ireland for religious to teach in the schools they were establishing. In 1866 the first Presentation Sisters left their homeland, family and friends, and set out from Fermoy, Ireland to make the long perilous journey to Tasmania. In the following years the Irish Presentation Sisters met the needs throughout the continent.
One of the early concerns of the Society was to establish an overseas mission. This was realized in 1966, and today there is a group of Australian and Melanesian Presentation Sisters ministering to the people of Papua New Guinea.
Examples of the Work of this Ministry
Presentation People Support Asylum Seekers
Presentation People from the Ballina group attended the Rally to remember the 15th anniversary of the Tampa – a defining moment in the history of our treatment of asylum seekers. About 90 people attended and were moved by the accounts of the suffering of those incarcerated on Manus and Nauru. The speakers, Nathan Willis and Cath Napier, had both worked in these detention Centres.
Victorian Presentation Sisters and friends joined the large crowd who gathered to hear the pain-filled stories about asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island. One of the speakers was a teacher who had recently returned from Nauru. She was risking her job as a teacher by speaking out on behalf of others. In an action of solidarity with asylum seekers, the crowd raised their arms, making a pattern similar to the wire around the camps. As we marched through the city, a larger crowd than usual lined the streets clapping, taking photographs and adding words of encouragement, obviously in solidarity with the Asylum Seekers.
Anne Jordan, PBVM and Margaret Walsh, PBVM were recently privileged to witness the dedication of the senior and younger men and women who led a day long rally in front of QVB Sydney, reading the files of those who had experienced the plight of the Refugees in detention at Nauru and Manus Island.
Peace through Social Justice
Australia: Peace through Social Justice
By Annette Shears PBVM
Peace – a situation where the people involved feel comfortable with one another, where they feel secure and respected, able to be themselves, able to connect with others and have their needs met; they are able to express whatever opinions, concerns, questions are relevant to them. Because this attitude of acceptance pervades the atmosphere, anxiety disappears and people can be free and open to the opinions and concerns of others. They are able to examine these concerns/opinions in a non-threatening environment, confident that communication can occur and any misunderstandings can be clarified. A person of peace may present as calm, open, thoughtful, respectful of others and compassionate.
How can peace bring about justice? In a peaceful situation, the conditions are there for people to engage with one another, to have their voices heard if a perceived injustice begins to rear its ugly head.
“A bus load of city folk drive 2 hours to visit farms and meet farmers – distressed men and women whose families have farmed, cared for, loved this land for many generations. The rich topsoil, 3m deep -best farming land in this country- produces food for the whole region and far beyond. The Government has given permission for companies to drill for coal seam gas. The distance between drill-heads is so narrow the farmers can no longer plough the land or plant. The farmers have no say whether a company comes on to their land or not. The Government has given permission. Other problems are the ill effects on health especially children, the poisoning of the groundwater. The farmers tell us the situation, show the drill heads and their positioning, explain the consequences for food production, polluted prime farm land, their own families … We listen attentively, respectfully, ask questions … They tell us how we can help by writing informed letters to the Government. The farmers are happy we have come. They feel their voices are being heard.
How can justice bring about peace? Many refugees held in detention centres for years are denied justice, as they are tormented by the uncertainty of such incarceration. They have committed no crime but they fled persecution, bombing, torture to bring up their children in a peaceful land. This ‘half-life’ is a different form of torture from the kind they have fled. There can be no peace in the denial of their suffering, in the long waiting for their cases to be heard, in the refusal to allow them a normal life. Peace will only come when justice is given them.
Violence and hatred in speech and in attitude are neither peaceful nor just. It is time for peace movements to rise up and renew their commitment to justice, nonviolence and peacemaking as a way of life. May we recommit to reconciliation and peace with justice as the way of life.1
A suburb in Western Sydney – I have the name and address of a family I knew in the Refugee Camp where I had worked. I knock on a door – it opens a fraction – a face in shadow – suspicious, wary after years lived under a repressive regime. “Yes?” asks a voice.
“Tôi là soeur dạy Tiếng Anh ở Trại tỵ nạn ở Thái Lan”. (I am the sister who taught English in the Refugee Camp in Thailand.) Suddenly a smile, a welcome: ‘Come in! Come in!’ There is recognition of a shared experience, empathy and now a trust – the change from tension and suspicion is palpable. There is now some peace.
1Cf Claude Mostowik msc
Papua New Guinea: Simbu Women in Business
Papua New Guinea:Simbu Women in Business
By Catherine Mur, PBVM
The three wise women of Kup saw the needs of the women and children in the densely populated area of Chimbu Province in the Highlands Region of Papua New Guinea. The three women knew and foresaw that the people would be facing difficulties in a cash economy. In order for their people not to be stranded, these women carried out a feasibility study in many parts of the remotest areas in Chimbu. A local businessman offered to raise funds to have capital before helping the women start their project. They raised K10, 000 (US$ 3,153) to start. The main objective of Simbu Women in Business is to sustain a living for the majority and to empower women, children and family.
SWIB negotiated with commercial banks in the country and eventually created a financial relationship with the Meri Plus Bank with accounts only for the women. Each woman registered as a member and opened an account to save money from her small business, eventually depositing a total of K40.00 per woman. Interestingly many of these women are illiterate women in the village. There is no deduction or bank charge and the interest rate is good. All the elected members in each district in the province support the women to put in a good amount into the bank so that that these women can get a loan to start their small business.
The women can get a loan of k100.00 when they have K30.00 in their account. They pay to the bank K2.00 every month to repay their loan. It is a very low percentage interest. I meet with these women once a month to discuss their small businesses and the guidelines and policies of the Meri Plus Bank. These women have made an immense difference in the lives of the people in their community.
These women have projects such as:
- Breeding fish
- Sales of mini goods
Another communal effort will be to strengthen the assistance to school-age children to acquire a Basic Formal
Education. Furthermore, the Meri Plus Bank also helps to fund school fees for their children not at a primary level through the tertiary level. The Meri Plus Bank has helped many women in the village to live a better life and continues to help them solve many of their problems. This initiative is empowering our women to be more innovative in their daily lives. The living standard in the village has improved in the family and community. Thank you to the Meri Plus for the wonderful work done in the densely populated area in the Province. The service providers have brought the service to the remotest part of the Province and to the unfortunate women, children and families who live there. There are about five thousand women in the province and many women are now engaged with the Meri Plus Bank in doing many good works at the village level. The youth and especially the men are supporting the women in their small business. The vision of the Simbu Women in Business is “Empowering women, children and family to sustain a better living through effort and prepare Human Resources for our future benefit.”
The women in my area are now looking forward to building a community center where they can host skills training for the group. They all cooperate, whether young or old, in a common venture to derive a profitable income and reinvest in Human Resources. I am so proud to work with these women and see the changes in their small business. They started small and now they are making a good living.
Presentation Sisters Papua New Guinea Arop Project
PRESENTATION SISTERS PAPUA NEW GUINEA AROP PROJECT
Eighteen years ago the 1998 Papua New Guinea earthquake took place on July 17 with a moment magnitude of 7.0 (Severe). The event occurred on a reverse fault near the north coast region of Papua New Guinea, 25 kilometres (15.5 miles) from the coast near Aitape, and caused a large undersea landslide which resulted in a tsunami that hit the coast, killing at least 2,200 people.A few minutes after the earthquake, many residents reported hearing a loud clap as the tsunami approached the shoreline. The tsunami resulted in at least 2,200 people being killed, thousands being injured, about 9,500 homeless and about 500 missing. The maximum height of the waves was estimated at being 15 m high (49.2 ft) with an average height of 10.5 m.
The area worst hit was a 30 km coastal strip running north-west from Aitape to the village of Sissano. Several villages in the path of the tsunami were completely destroyed and others extensively damaged. The tsunami wave uprooted entire buildings and transported their foundations 50–60 metres from their original location. The village of Arop was situated on a narrow spit between the coast and Sissano lagoon. It was directly in the path of the tsunami and was worst hit.
The amount of injury and illness due to the tsunami overwhelmed the makeshift hospitals, leaving many victims with wounds that were untreated for several days and led to gangrene. Rotting dead bodies that remained in the lagoon spread diseases and the government sealed off the entire area. After the makeshift hospital in Vanimo was dismantled, the sick people became worse because the nearest hospital was over a day’s walk away.
The Presentation Sisters had a community house in the village of Arop. By some miracle, none of the Sisters was home at the time. There were Sisters at the nearby village of Malol. They were the first to see survivors dazed and looking for help with dreadful injuries. Our Presentation Sisters were the ones who got word of the disaster to the wider world.
The people of Arop were among those from several villages who moved their buildings further back from the sea when they rebuilt. These fisher/coastal people had to begin a whole new way of life with many from their community among the deceased.The village of Arop is now away from the ocean. They have no fresh water supply. To obtain water they walk two hours to the Ilingi River to fill their 20 litre (5.28 gallons) plastic water containers and then walk back carrying the water.
When the Presentation Sisters, through Maureen Watson, organised a grant from IPA for the people of Arop, it took a little time to get organised. Diana Dao pbvm, called the village leaders together to form a committee. The first option they explored was to build wells. In order to see if this was viable, they organised for a surveyor who informed them the water would not be pure enough. The next option was water tanks.
The tanks (pictured) had to be picked up by two trucks in Wewak and then take the seven hour trip over rough roads and through rivers to Aitape and then another two hours to Arop. The roofs of houses in Aitape are predominantly made from sago palm. Installation of the guttering and pipes needed were more expensive than the tanks.
Originally the hope was to get 60 tanks. The money allowed for 20 so the committee had many meetings to decide which houses would receive the tanks. Some Catholic parishioners thought the Catholics should get them first. The committee determined to spread them through the village so each household was a 10 to 15 min walk from a tank.
The official launching of the tanks happened on the 15th August. The day began with Mass in the Church at which some people from the other Churches attended. I was in Aitape for other reasons so took the chance to go with the Sisters from Aitape who were part of the official party.
When the committee realised I was present (a bit hard to miss me as the only white skinned person to be seen), I immediately became the Number One guest ahead of the local dignitaries.After Mass the first of the Sing Sings began to lead the guest speakers (9 in all) to the specially erected dais. While the other guests were able to walk behind, the dancers insisted on decorating me and having me join them in the gathering dance. I then found myself being requested to make a speech!!
I tried my welcome in pidgin. The laughter of the 100’s of people present let me know I didn’t get it quite right. In the few words I said I spoke of IPA and the Friday Fast. This received much applause which increased as I named different countries throughout the world from where Presentation Sisters contributed to the funding of the tanks.
I needed to get back to Aitape as part of caring for Fran Kosi so I left before the other speeches. (Fran was the first Melanesian woman to become a Presentation Sister. She died of breast cancer on 20th August). The community of Sisters in Arop and those who travelled from Aitape stayed and were part of the rest of the celebrations. Diana spoke as the local community leader and mover and shaker of the project.
Bernie Telamai, pbvm spoke on behalf of all the Sisters in Papua New Guinea and Elizabeth Sep pbvm spoke as the Bursar who ensured the money got to where it needed to get to when it needed to get there. The other speakers were government and community leaders.
The day continued with much dancing, singing and Kai Kai (feasting). At 3pm Bernie announced which households
would host the tanks. There was some disappointment from those who missed out but much reassurance that the tanks belonged to the whole community. There was much appreciation from the people I was able to speak with. Their whole lives are going to be changed. I met some of the older people I had met 12 months after the tsunami. These coastal people found it so hard to change their life-style in the midst of their grief. Many years later the tanks are a small way to restore the gift of water close to their homes.
Presentation Sisters Wagga and Papua New Guinea
A Dream Unfolds, Presentation Spirituality and Charism
A Dream Unfolds, Presentation Spirituality and Charism
By Noela Fox, PBVM
To write A Dream Unfolds has been a joy and a privilege; an opportunity to build on what other writers have done – to bring to life Nano as a woman for our times. This woman who encourages us when our future seems uncertain, who challenges us to see that personal and communal gifts can bring about peace and justice, and who shows how our relationship with and vision of God impacts on our hearts, minds and relationships shapes our spirituality. Above all, A Dream Unfolds presents to us a Nano whose life is infused with a confidence of the presence of a loving faithful God, no matter how hidden he/she appears to be. Nano is a person whose relationship with God is primary and energizing.
I, like many others, believe a novel has a greater power to move the human heart than a biography does. We have only to think of the impact of the novels of Charles Dickens or George Elliot, or the book To Kill a Mocking Bird. Whose heart has not been changed through reading The Little Prince? Since ancient times stories have been powerful in imparting deep spiritual insights, in changing lives, in enlarging people’s visions and empowering dreams. A biography, of course, has the possibility to do this, but I believe a novel engages the reader in a more intimate way. A biography is written from the “outside”; it’s a story about a person’s life and achievements. It does not engage the reader in such an intimate way as a novel does. A novel is written from the “inside.” The novelist endeavours to travel inside the person’s skin and thoughts. In A Dream Unfolds, I try to answer the questions of not only what Nano did, and how she did it, but what empowered her to change from a self-centred person to a dedicated, warm, courageous and very human woman in an historical period when justice was void and caring relationships curtailed within strict boundaries. I present her as a model of how we can respond to the events of life, of how our relationship with God assists us to be, and have the power to change all.
I hope that in having another look at Nano, whose heart changed as she deepened her relationships, particularly with God, we grow in hope, faith, courage, and in strengthening our relationships, thereby deepening our spirituality and prayer. I hope also, that the reader can respond with laughter to some of the scenes, as cheerfulness and laughter are a sign of positive relationships. Do our new dreams of Nano have an impact on our charism, (to bring about the kingdom of God) which is the heart of Nano shining in our day? Charism is ever old, ever new and living. All living things change, so how we live our charism also changes with changing times. I hope this novel inspires us to work in this changing world to celebrate the presence of God in all creation, as Nano did.
Tasmania: Educational Community for Nearly 150 Years
I have come newly into the role of Principal at St Mary’s College, Hobart, a Kinder – Year 12 school in the Presentation tradition. The Presentation Sisters negotiated the transition for St Mary’s to become a part of the local Catholic educational system a few years ago.
The College, and I as a part of it, is blessed to be in an ongoing relationship with the Presentation Sisters. Gabrielle Morgan, PBVM, the Tasmanian Congregational Leader, has an office at the College two doors away, and she has welcomed me into the community and is mentoring me in the Presentation Charism. Majella Kelly, PBVM, a member of our College Board and a past principal of the College, is providing me a much-grounded history of the College. Marilyn Fryett, PBVM is a member of the Governing Council and provides a Presentation presence as a Catholic educator. I feel that I am in such a vital position as I see the challenge to continue Nano’s work in this community. In some ways, I had expected that the Presentation Sisters might have had difficulty in letting go of St Mary’s. I found the reality quite different. I feel that they have great trust in us to carry the Charism of Nano Nagle forward. They have given me permission to claim it as my own. I am so inspired by this generosity of spirit.
I see this as both a huge gift and a huge responsibility. I feel truly bound to the work of Nano Nagle and the Presentation Sisters who have led this educational community for nearly 150 years. For me, I gain great sense of meaning in my life in working to ensure the marginalised have access and equity in education. Interestingly, the school was opened on the edge of Hobart Town for the purposes of schooling the Catholic, underprivileged students of Hobart by the first Presentation Sisters to Tasmania. As Hobart Town grew, St Mary’s now finds itself in the same location, but it has become an inner-city school with mostly privileged students. Our work now is twofold: first to continue to reach out to the marginalised and poor and provide a place of learning second to none, as the first sisters did nearly 150 years ago; and secondly, to ensure the students from privileged backgrounds grow in their understanding of solidarity with the poor, the common good and servant leadership. The staff of St Mary’s College is working with the Presentation Sisters past and present to build the reign of God.
By Helen Spencer, Principal of St Mary’s College in Hobart, Tasmania
Australian Catholic Religious against Human Trafficking
‘Human Trafficking denies people their recognition as worthwhile human beings. It commodifies a person so that they become a “disposable thing”! I hate this. It goes against everything Jesus lived, and we are commanded to be Christians. Jesus accepted, respected, heard, embraced, healed and affirmed those who asked for care and those in need. He also challenged those who failed to show compassion to others. Human trafficking challenges me to be ‘truly Christian’
Recently ACRATH has focused on labour trafficking and forced marriage. In North Western Australia there is evidence of overseas workers on gas rigs being paid wages, then being taken to the bank, forced to take out the wage and pay most of it to minder traffickers. In the city, we have assisted a couple of women with children who were escaping traffickers by fleeing their home country to Australia. This involved support for the women, getting the children into schools, clothing, housing and providing for the women and children. We employed workers from overseas and later found out the contractors were not paying them a reasonable wage. The workers were misinformed, frightened and were being exploited for the traffickers profit.I have been involved in opposing trafficking through ACRATH (Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans) for a number of years. ACRATH is a national, eclectic group of Religious sisters and lay people working to raise awareness, support victims, advocate on their behalf with governments and network in partnership with others to prevent and stop human trafficking. ACRATH has links with most South East Asian and Pacific Island countries through Caritas Asia, Talitha Kum and many Catholic groups.
Another story is of a Muslim widow offered work in Australia. She needed it after her husband died, leaving her the sole caregiver of a teenage son. On arrival, she was forced into prostitution. She became ill and escaped the traffickers when taken to hospital. ACRATH volunteers walked alongside her while she negotiated getting a replacement passport without saying what had happened. As a Muslim, she would have been imprisoned on return to her home Muslim country. ACRATH supported this woman to achieve her goals in Australia and ensured she was safe on return to her son.
People in Australia do not believe human trafficking and slavery occur here. It does and ACRATH goes on raising
awareness in schools, universities and parishes. Many schools are now aware and are particularly interested in the trafficking of children. The schools promote fair trade Easter eggs and raise money for victims. The children are horrified when they learn about other children making the jewelry, clothes, shoes and iPads they use. They also investigate ‘how many slaves your household uses via the website, In these ways, we alert others to the evil of human trafficking.
By Lucy van Kessel, pbvm
Let Them Stay
The High Court of Australia passed a resolution stating Australia was entitled to detain boat people and send them to Nauru and Manus Island, in a decision handed down on 3rd February 2016.
Joan Kennedy and a number of other sisters across Australia attended rallies against this decision within 24 hours of it being handed down. It was estimated that 10,000 people attended the Melbourne rally. This was extraordinary, given people had 24 hours notice.
For Joan there was a different mood in the crowd. People were distressed for the asylum seeker families likely to be returned to the island prison from Australia. Many people carried home made posters, expressing their own views on the injustice. Most speakers thanked the Churches for their recent statements to the Press opposing the decision. They offered sanctuary and threatened civil disobedience. Speakers thanked the nuns for their continued courageous stand and said it was this stance by the Churches that might be the turning point at this time in Australia’s disgraceful history. Speakers commented that in looking back to the 20th century it was the Church, particularly the nuns who were successful in bringing change to human rights issues. Interestingly, none of the speakers were from Church based groups.
The interaction between complete strangers, sharing ideas for action and the absence of political parties was quite noticeable, apart from a small group of Greens supporters. Similar rallies occurred in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth. The Perth rally took place outside a detention centre near the airport. The detainees had been removed to a locked location nearby. After hearing talks the group walked/ chanted their way to the active detention centre with a police escort stopping all the traffic on the main road to airport – getting plenty of notice. The detainees would certainly have known people were rallying outside for them.
Presentation Colleges in Australia have been active in responding to the High Court decision in a number of ways. One college circulated information on: Who are Asylum Seekers? What has the High Court Ruled? Who are some of the people affected? How can Iona help? What are the detention Camps like? Students were allocated time during their Religious Education classes to write letters, and were encouraged to download this information from the K-Drive and consider how they would respond.
Another college participated in a number of activities: Students and staff attending a special liturgy celebrated by Bishop Long at St Patricks Cathedral. Students created images of 37 babies and displayed them in the college front garden with a sign # Let Them Stay. Students took prospective parents past the display on Tour of school day. Messages of # Let Them Stay were created in chalk on the pavement around the statue of Mary. Year 9 students created a montage of 37 baby photos and put them on display. Missy Higgins song “O Canada” and accompanying images were used as part of the prayer in classes and at the Staff Meeting and a young woman, Jess Hackett, was supported on her walk with a Welcome Petition to Canberra from Melbourne.
With many letters sent to politicians and the pressure of changing public opinion it is hoped the asylum seekers will not be returned to Nauru and Manus Island and eventually these detention centres will be closed.
Queensland: We Are All the Same
Thirty-one years ago, I exchanged the ministry of teaching various subjects in High School for a ministry with migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. During these years, I have met many wonderful people from places like Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, many countries in South America, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran – people fleeing wars, suffering persecution of many kinds, and dire poverty. All were seeking a safe haven – peace and stability to bring up their children. One thing I learned is that people all over the world are basically the same, wanting much the same things for their families.
Australia has always been a multicultural country. Over the years, immigration policies have changed. In the recent past, the Pacific solution was to establish prisons on islands close to Australia. There, immigrants arriving by boat and are unauthorized maritime arrivals, are incarcerated. Some languished in these offshore detention camps for over four years before being granted a temporary protection visa. In more recent times, agreements were reached with the governments of places like Papua New Guinea and Cambodia. The Australian Government spent millions of dollars establishing a detention centre in Cambodia where only four people were housed – a dreadful waste of money. More recently, the government has agreed to take 12,000 refugees from Syria. Despite these policies, Australia remains one of the more generous nations for permanent resettlement of refugees per head of population.
This ministry has taken many forms: teaching English; helping people read letters from Social Security and other official sources; helping people negotiate their way through the various situations that arise in the process of adjusting to life in a different country; writing letters to Government representatives; taking part in street marches protesting some government policies; ensuring that newly arrived people can access whatever sources are necessary to survive; listening to people as they share their stories of escape; enabling some to have a few days of rest and relaxation near the sea. The last is such a necessary release of stress, especially for asylum seekers on temporary visas, waiting for a determination of their status.
The situations in which I have carried out this ministry are also many and varied – in High Schools as English Teacher, teaching in Intensive English Schools, teaching English and cultural orientation for two years in a Thai Refugee Camp; working with community groups in my hometown in the settlement process.
Since my retirement from paid work, I am currently a volunteer engaged in many of the above activities with three different organisations. In 2015, one of the organisations nominated me for a Queensland Multicultural Award in the outstanding volunteer category, for which I was a finalist. Part of their nomination read: “Annette’s various volunteer roles have helped to promote multiculturalism in the community and welcomed a multitude of new arrivals to Queensland. She is able to engage easily with people from various cultural backgrounds and help them to navigate their way through learning. Annette has been instrumental in enabling new Queenslanders to become active participants in society. She has helped refine MDA’s Citizenship Test support Program to give refugees a greater understanding of the requirements of the test. She has also trained fellow volunteers to facilitate the sessions across the state. She is a volunteer with the Family Match Program. She is also a volunteer at Milpera State High School on a weekly basis, assisting refugee and migrant youth with English as a second language.” The awards night was inspirational as we saw videos of all the finalists and the wonderful work they are doing.
What the migrants and refugees have taught me cannot be measured. I have found it humbling witnessing their survival skills, determination, courage, cheerfulness in extreme difficulties, love of life and sense of humour.
By Annette Shears, PBVM
“Live simply that others may simply live” Gandhi
Inspired by love of God and Creation, Presentation Sisters across Australia aim to reduce their impact on the life systems of Earth
We find practical ways to develop sustainable living habits in our homes by using
environmentally friendly cleaning products, avoiding plastic bags when shopping, reducing meat consumption and following the 3 R’s Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Developing compost and worm farms assist in our organic gardening.
When it can be achieved, Sisters, like many other Australians, use rainwater tanks and solar energy. We are still a long way from having these resources available to most people. Some choose shared living to reduce their per-person use of water and electricity and to challenge one another in their day-to-day living, as well as witnessing to their beliefs. In some places, Sisters have involved the local community in the rejuvenation of land. On land at one of our Presentation ministries, we have done this on land previously used for pasture. This construction of a natural bushland centre has led to an increase in the number of animals and birds native to this area.
Books, films, discussions and prayer have helped us develop our knowledge and experience of ecology and eco-spirituality. In Queensland, some Sisters are part of the core group that gathers around Earth Link. Endorsed and resourced by the Sisters of Mercy, Earth Link is a community that envisions a world where there is respect, reverence and care for the whole Earth community. We participate in their reflective and educational activities. The Earth Link newsletter informs us about other community activities. Some Sisters educate others to care for the Earth through talks and workshops given in schools and in the wider community. Justice Contact Sisters offer their Congregation and Associates written reflections and suggestions for action. The written message reaches a wider audience through the Sisters’ contribution to the Society publication Justice Jottings.
In the wider community, we support other conservation groups through donations, petitions and attendance at rallies, especially those advocating for action on climate change and for renewable energy to replace fossil fuel sources. The major contribution, undertaken by many religious congregations, is the forgoing of huge investment returns, as a result of withdrawing funds from fossil fuel investments.
A reflection on the parable of the Good Samaritan leads us to see Earth as the victim. Earth is neighbour to us; she gives us food, material for our home and our clothing. Are we a neighbour to Earth? Do we endeavor to give back to Earth to regenerate her? One group gives back to the bees each year in gratitude for the honey received from them. In 2015, it was money for a new hive; in 2014, it was giving better water facilities to cool the bees in the heat.
By Peta Anne Molloy, PBVM (Queensland)
Wakool Shire, Australia: Rural Women's Leadership Program
The Wakool Shire is an isolated and remote region in the South West of NSW. Since 2011 Bernadette Pattison, PBVM – Presentation Sisters Rural Outreach Wagga Wagga, has been working as a family support worker and community educator. During 2013, Bernadette spoke with a variety of rural women as well as the Community Development Officer, and the Department of Primary Industries Rural Support Worker to ascertain the necessity to develop a program especially for women to develop further their strengths, self-esteem, confidence and skills.
Many women spoke about their experiences of living in a remote and isolated area, both physically and emotionally. Services, depending on the need could be an hour away or even five hours, for example, Melbourne. Could ‘something’ be developed for the women to encompass their needs?
Over a twelve month period, beginning November 2013, the rural women gathered at the Moulamein Public School Library for the Wakool Shire Rural Women’s Leadership Program. The women were teachers, cooks, HACC workers, managers in the Aged Care Facility, Shire council workers, pre-school committee, career advisors and Art Gallery/Catering business volunteers. They were a wonderfully engaging and energetic group of women wanting to learn new skills, reflect more and be pro-active in all spheres of their life.
The Program was developed as it progressed so that the women had input into topics relating to their needs.
- Leadership and Influence – what is it?
- Values: understanding what motivates us and others
- Personality styles: understanding and working with difference
- Communication skills: working to my strengths
- Living compassionately
- Active listening
- How to recognise conflict styles in self and others and how to respond
This program gave the women an opportunity for learning and reflecting about life. As the questions became different and the depth of sharing more real, the women developed a connection and relationship with each other that provided the space for the real learning to occur.
By Bernadette Pattison, PBVM
Sydney: Compassion Unfolding, Taking the Lantern Out
By Marina Aguirre, Friend of Nano
Approaching the end of the HSC, Year 12 students around Australia are excitedly preparing for the popular ‘schoolies’ celebration which has always been well-reported in the media. At Domremy Catholic College (a Presentation Heritage School in Sydney), the 2014 students were offered an alternative experience led by Harvest Inroads. We were given the opportunity to travel to Fiji and be involved in community projects within the local villages that most needed our help. Daniela Lopes, Jess Portas-Hills, Sarah Homeh and I decided to do exactly this- celebrate finishing our HSC in a meaningful way.
We spent seven days in Nadi Fiji, where we not only got to experience the brilliance of the culture, but we also met the beautiful people we would be helping. We visited three local schools where we constructed toilet blocks for the kindergarten students and formed footpaths for the schools’ use – facilities that in Australia we never really think twice about. For these communities, our help meant much more. We delivered meals to a local women’s shelter, designed to provide homeless, struggling women with shelter and work opportunities. Being a woman myself, there developed this sense of connectedness, and it made the experience much more emotional and moving.
This was not the usual Australian ‘schoolies’ experience. It was much more. It was a celebration, an emotional ride, a hardworking mission, a confronting and challenging view of life, a learning experience, a cultural immersion and a rewarding opportunity to give back to the community in a way that we will not ever forget.
Cambelltown, Australia: Nano Nagle Camps for Youth
Nano Nagle Camp 4 Kids, a Presentation Sisters ministry, is a child-centered program for low socio-economic children in the outer Sydney area.
Weekend camps are run for children (regardless of ethnicity, religion or race) who experience chronic levels of stress and have limited access to support. Children with a diagnosis of Asperger’s, ODD, ADHD and anxiety are included in the program. The children attend a Sport and Recreation Centre and experience the fun and freedom of childhood. The Camp Coordinator trains a number of volunteers from a tertiary or secondary education institution. The camps certainly fulfil the criteria of the Four Key Principles for the Rights of Children (UN Convention)
Each child is treated with respect and dignity. The Coordinator will go to the home and meet a child and parents if there is a high level of anxiety. Clear communication and assurance is there for every family.
The policies and procedures cover every aspect of the camp and a risk assessment for the safety of the children is included for each camp. These policies and procedures are updated on an annual basis and constantly reviewed to ensure that the needs of the children are met and recognized.
The volunteers cannot participate in a camp unless they have a Working with Children Check. The Coordinator verifies every number online and a record is kept. The training of the leaders is mandatory, especially in the area of Child Protection and other child safe practices.
The leaders are trained in managing challenging behaviours and they receive support throughout the camp with any issue that arises. A daily debriefing is held by the Coordinator. Clear expectations of leaders is communicated and set out in the Training Manual. The Confidentiality for each child is emphasized.
Apart from the training, each leader signs a Code of Conduct form outlining the expectations of behaviour. We have a Social Media policy that safeguards the child and the volunteer if a child tried to contact a leader after a camp. Photos of the children on camp are restricted.
A principle of the UN Convention is that children have a right to have their say. At the beginning of the camp, the children are actively involved in formulating the rules and developing a group agreement, so that everyone is safe and can enjoy their time away from home.
The children are supported throughout the camp, especially when they are distressed, angry or anxious. Two leaders may stay with a child who needs some space or time out. Establishing boundaries is part of the program.
The Management Committee is involved in the policymaking and any change of legislation is incorporated into practice.
Grievance procedures and incident reports are kept and brought to management. This ensures that the rights of children are continually monitored.
The coordinator keeps up to date with the latest research into child protection and implements this knowledge into the camp program. This enables the coordinator and management to create a ‘child safe’ organization and positive opportunities for all children. Feedback from schools and parents has been very positive in the difference ONE camp can make to a child.
Children are our future and the leaders are the positive role models.
By Margaret Barclay, PBVM and Jenny Sheppard
Perth, Western Australia: Aboriginal People
Ruah (Perth Western Australia) has worked with Aboriginal people since the 1960’s in welcoming them to a Day Centre, where they were able to rest, shower, eat, meet others and get assistance in various ways. I began meeting and working with Aboriginal people in 1992 at the Ruah Centre. In 1995 I moved into the mental health team at Ruah and an Aboriginal Support Program was set up to assist Aboriginal people with mental health issues as there was a real need for this.
Aboriginal workers were employed and team members Wadjellas (white fellas) walked alongside and mentored them in providing mental health support, while we learned from them what was culturally appropriate. In a moving ritual it was ‘handed over’ to ‘Derbal Yerrigan’ Health Service (the name of the Perth waters of the Swan River) and the Aboriginal Health Service at the time.
For a time Aboriginal support diminished until regenerated with a strategic development plan in the early 2000’s. Central to the plan was a concerted effort to train and employ Aboriginal workers, to increase the number of Aboriginal clients and to participate actively in Aboriginal reconciliation and community development.
Ruah provides the following services to Aboriginal people, and in some cases, others:
- Ruah refuge which supports Aboriginal and other women and children caught in domestic violence.
- Ruah Centre provides a safe day place for men and women to rest, relax, eat and receive medical and other supports.
- Anawim (will be ‘Kambarang Mia’, ‘Kambarang’ is a time of spring, growth, new beginnings etc, ‘Mia’ be a place) is an Aboriginal women’s refuge with three separate programs for clients.
- Women’s Service provides support to Aboriginal women in prison and coming out of prison.
- Tenancy Support to assist Aboriginal people to get and keep their own housing.
- Street to home to assist homeless Aboriginal people find accommodation.
- Inreach supports people with lived experience of mental illness and operates in metropolitan wide teams.
- Perth Aboriginal Services Directory gives information on available services for Aboriginal people ranging from accommodation, counselling, culture to family. It is updated annually and is freely available online at http://content.ruah.com.au/cms/001387.pdf
- Growing Strong, Staying Strong focuses on building and maintaining mental health and is freely available online at http://www.ruahmentalhealth.com.au/page/growingstrong_stayingstrong
All workers participate in Aboriginal Cultural Awareness training which Reg (Culture and Workforce Development Senior or one of our Senior Aboriginal staff) and I provide a number of times a year. Information and fact sheets can be found at:
There is an active plan to recruit, train and keep Aboriginal staff. Ruah currently has about 15 Aboriginal workers, including a manager and board member.
I am proud to work in an organization which respects and promotes Aboriginal people; it is a continuous learning process which has gifted me with close friends and wonderful mentors.
Lucy van Kessel
Greater Dandenong, Australia: Women Empowering Womena
The well in the garden of Wellsprings for Women is a powerful image of the ancient place around which women gathered to share stories and encourage one another. It is a focal point for the many celebrations that bring the Wellsprings community together each year. The Presentation story began in the city of Greater Dandenong situated 35 kilometers from Melbourne, in 1912. Sister Ann Halpin’s ministry there over many years led her to respond to the enormous changes in the local demography – from a very Anglo/Irish community to the most culturally diverse city in Melbourne with more than 150 nationalities represented. Since its humble beginnings in 1994, Wellsprings for Women, located in our former convent, provides a wide range of services for hundreds of women from this exciting and challenging community
The theme for 2014 “Pathways to a New Life” reflects the Wellsprings’ vision to empower vulnerable and socially isolated women and is achieved through a great variety of programs engaging the women through creative and more formal classes. A choir brings great joy, relaxation and keep fit exercises are a source of fun and laughter, and art and craft classes create space for story sharing and friendships to grow. Women with little or no English gain a sense of inclusion and empowerment through English classes while computer classes and workplace skills sessions prepare women for the workforce. The Learning to Live in Australia project encourages the most recent arrivals to connect women with the wider community, to understand something of the Australian lifestyle and systems, especially the school system. A home visitation program allows trained volunteers to serve as mentors and friends, working with each woman to create pathways for her to live her life more fully.
Joan Power pbvm, Victoria, Australia
Working against Trafficking in Humans
Two years ago I spent seven months in New York, as one of the representatives of the International Presentation Association (IPA) at the United Nations. This experience changed the way I viewed global issues and approached my ministry. In the role of IPA Justice Contact in my Congregation, I have many opportunities to implement what I learned there in 2010. It colours the way I interact with various groups, who focus on a wide range of issues from sustainable living to human rights. One example of this is the way my involvement in the mission of IPA has affected my work with Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans (ACRATH). As a member of ACRATH, I have endless opportunities to work with numerous other groups on issues around human trafficking, shame marriages, forced labour, fair trade, human rights and poverty. The IPA experience at the UN has enabled me to look at human trafficking from a more informed and global perspective. I can now raise questions such as, why so many people in developing countries are so vulnerable to traffickers, in a more informed way. One obvious solution is that we support the move to enable more girls to receive an education. This was one of the objectives of ACRATH’s last visit to Canberra where we were able to speak with members of the Australian Federal Parliament on Human Trafficking. One of the points we raised was the need for AusAid funding to be increased and more of this aid to be distributed to girl’s education.
As part of my ministry I visit schools and community groups to speak on Human Trafficking and an appropriate response to this crime. I particularly appreciate working with students in our Presentation Colleges where the seeds of justice have been sown so well. I find the students open and eager to assist in whatever way they can in the fight against trafficking in persons. In my presentations I also focus on the work of the UN. As I am presently in contact with members of the NGO (Non-Governmental Organisation) Committee to Stop Trafficking in Persons in New York, I am able to share what I learn from this group with members of ACRATH. I am proud of IPA’s contribution to the work of this NGO Committee.
Joan Kennedy of the Victoria Congregation, April 2012
THE SISTERS’ PLACE – a Safe Night Shelter for Homeless Women
The work of the Spirit never ceases to amaze me as I now find myself sharing a home at night with homeless women.
The Sisters’ Place was established in 2007 by five local Congregations of women including Presentation Sisters. It is staffed by volunteers both religious and lay and managed by a salaried coordinator. The Sisters’ Place is set up to house women who are living on the streets. Overnight stay, shower, bed, clean clothes and rest are provided.
All the work is carried out by women who volunteer their time – from picking up women from the streets of Fremantle, preparing and maintaining the house, settling the women at night, sleeping over and cleaning and doing the laundry. Maura and I do volunteer service a couple of nights a week.
The Mission of The Sisters’ Place is to relieve suffering and bring hope and dignity to homeless women. It is my privilege to humbly spend time with these women and to be continually blessed by their kindness, grace and gratitude.
Marion Beard of the Western Australia Congregation
Healing, Sustaining and Reconciling in a Correctional Centre
Junee Correctional Centre is a medium to low security gaol. There are 790 inmates from all parts of Australia and overseas. I aim to provide a ministry of healing, sustaining and reconciling, to inmates and their families, in times of crisis, illness, depression or death in a family. My ministry also extends to the staff members who work in stressful situations.
I work with two other Chaplains (Baptist and Anglican). We coordinate Church Services, conduct Loss and Grief sessions and organise Memorial Services when an inmate is not permitted to attend a family funeral. We also facilitate the ‘Kairos Programme’. The word ‘Kairos’ means ‘God’s Special Time’. The programme is conducted by twenty-five volunteer men from different denominations in the community. The course is conducted over three days in the gaol, and is offered to twenty-five inmates. After each Kairos we have a weekly ‘Journey Programme’ as a follow-up. When possible, the community volunteers attend these sessions. This programme offers inmates friendship and a feeling of hope … there are people out there who care!
It is often forgotten prisons are about people. Prisons are about community, a community of many layers, complications and unique challenges.
Rosemary Terry of the Wagga Wagga Congregation
Community-building in a School Community
Being part of the school community at Iona Presentation College I have many opportunities to encourage and be part of the ongoing community-building efforts and to help promote general enthusiasm, by:
- supporting staff pastorally and practically, in a variety of ways
- promoting literacy and an interest in/love of language
- helping to organize and prepare good liturgical experiences – including boarding students’ involvement in parish worship
- as part of the Religious Education Team, preparing resources and assisting with the sacramental program, facilitating students’ class participation in the sacrament of Reconciliation, and teaching lower school Religious Education.
While these are things I do – hopefully my being here promotes a sense of hope, worthwhileness, care and hospitality.
Flora Ricupero of the Western Australia Congregation, February 2011
Working with those who are poor in Thailand
I am working full-time in the little poor school at Dongkrabune Ratchaburi, named Thapinwittaya school. I also work with COERR (Catholic Office for Emergency Relief and Refugees). I am a COERR Director of the Ratchaburi diocese and work on a project called “Healing of Memory and Reconciliation” in nine camps, along the Thai–Mia Mya border as a program co-ordinator. At Ma Hong Son I have 4 camps, at Masort I have 3 camps, in Ratchaburi I have 1 camp, and Kanchanaburi at Sangkraburi very close to the border I have 1 camp. So please pray that the work of Nano’s daughter would give glory to God through our Presentation charism.
Cecilia Suwannee Phetpanomporn of the Western Australia Congregation
Supporting the Elderly and Other Vulnerable Women
Residing in a complex of forty units for over 55s I see my main ministry at home as being the gifts of peace, joy, love, patience, etc (Gal 5:22). My paid ministry is as a support worker for the elderly whereby I go to their homes and assist with whatever needs to be done – personal care, medications, meal preparations, domestic assistance. For many of the people I may be the only other person they see in a day so I see it as very important that I live “good news” to them. My voluntary work is providing social and prayer support to abortion-vulnerable women and then assisting with practical support with the baby.
Frances Hayes of the Western Australia Congregation
Being a Presence Amongst the Poor in Peru
Our challenge as Presentation Sisters in Lima (Peru) is to be a presence amongst the poor, living as they live, experiencing life from their perspective. Flowing from this, we focus our energies on changing the mentalities and structures which keep the women so oppressed. Training in work skills, education, manual crafts, self-esteem, dance, aerobics, alternative medicines, etc, help them to discover their own worth and dignity as women and this does change the quality of their lives and the lives of their children.
Margaret Kehoe of the Queensland Congregation
Believing Women for a Culture of Peace
Many Sisters of the Queensland Congregation participate in Peace Rallies and Marches. Some are pictured here with friends from other religious orders marching in Brisbane under the banner “Believing Women for a Culture of Peace” on the first anniversary of war being declared on Iraq.